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By Abhay V
Microsoft says Xbox Series X and S will leverage "full" RDNA 2 capabilities
by Abhay Venkatesh
AMD took to the virtual stage today to unveil its next-generation GPU offerings based on RDNA 2 architecture that is built on the 7nm process. The firm announced a trio of Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs that aim to go against Nvidia’s latest RTX 30 series offerings, promising higher performance per watt. During the presentation, the company also mentioned that it worked with Microsoft to optimize the architecture with technologies like DirectStorage API and more.
Now, Microsoft has explained through a blog post how its next-generation gaming consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S, will integrate with the RDNA 2 architecture to leverage all the capabilities announced by AMD today, to deliver a “level of power, performance and compatibility never before seen in console gaming, powered by AMD’s latest “Zen 2” and RDNA 2 architectures”. These benefits include hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing, Mesh Shaders, Sampler Feedback from the Xbox Velocity Architecture, and Variable Rate Shading.
The Redmond firm says that it has been working with AMD from the initial development phases of the Xbox Series X|S, and that it “chose to wait for the most advanced technology” from AMD before finalizing its architecture. It has worked to improved NPC intelligence and visuals through machine learning.
The firm is also working to bring ML-powered super resolution to the consoles as well, a possible rival to Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0 supersampling method, to the Xbox consoles. All these technologies, the company says, allows the consoles to achieve high quality, high fidelity visuals with realistic shadows and reflections.
Along with bringing these technologies and capabilities to the console, Microsoft says that it is also working with AMD to bring these benefits to the PC, which will provide developers a “common set of features” when developing games across the PC and console platforms. Other improvements from AMD such as Smart Access Memory - that allows full GPU memory access to Ryzen 5000 series CPUs - will further improve performance on the PC.
Microsoft’s post is interesting because the PlayStation 5 also features a custom RDNA 2 architecture-based GPU running alongside a Zen 2-based CPU. It will be fascinating to see what benefits the Xbox consoles can bring to overall performance thanks to the “full” hardware-level integration with the RDNA 2 architecture.
Halo Infinite studio head Chris Lee steps down
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Changes are happening inside Halo developer 343 Industries, as a new report reveals that Halo Infinite studio head Chris Lee has been taken off the massive project. Lee has lead the Halo series since 2016, and although he is off Infinite, he will remain a Microsoft employee according to an official statement by Microsoft.
"I have stepped back from Infinite and I am looking at future opportunities," Chris Lee had said to Bloomberg. "I believe in the team and am confident they will deliver a great game and now is a good time for me to step away."
Originally set to be the defining launch title of the next-gen Xbox consoles, Halo Infinite suffered a delay that pushed it back to 2021. According to the Bloomberg report, Lee's role was sidelined following the poor reception to the Halo Infinite gameplay showcase. Series veterans Joseph Staten and Pierre Hintze stepped in to help with the campaign and multiplayer, respectively, back in August.
This is not the first time Halo Infinite has lost a top executive, with creative director Tim Longo departing the project in 2019.
Halo Infinite is currently slated to land sometime in 2021 across the Xbox One family of consoles, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft earnings: $37.2B revenue with big Surface and gaming growth
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced its earnings for the first quarter of its 2021 fiscal year. Overall revenue grew by 12% (12% in constant currency) over the same quarter last year for a total of $37.2 billion. That's broken up into Productivity and Business Processes with $12.3B revenue and 11% (11% CC) growth), Intelligent Cloud with $13B revenue and 20% (19% CC) growth, and More Personal Computing with $11.8B revenue and 6% (6% CC) growth.
In the Productivity and Business Processes department, it was led by 9% increase in Office Commercial products and cloud services, including 21% (20% CC) growth in Office 365 Commercial. The other piece of products and cloud services, the products, declined 30% as more businesses move to the cloud.
For consumers, Office products and cloud services revenue grew by 13%, and Microsoft 365 Consumer subscribers are now at 45.3 million, a 27% increase. LinkedIn revenue grew by 16%, and sessions grew by 31%. For Dynamics, products and cloud services revenue grew by 19% (18% CC), driven by Dynamics 365 revenue, which grew by 38% (37% CC).
As usual, Azure drove the growth in the Intelligent Cloud section. All Server products and cloud services grew by 22% (21% CC), and that includes a 48% (47% CC) growth in Azure. Server products actually declined 1%.
For More Personal Computing, Windows OEM revenue actually declined by 5%, but that actually includes 31% growth in non-Pro revenue, so there was also a 22% decline in Pro revenue. Windows Commercial products and cloud services grew 13% (12% CC).
Surface revenue saw a big boost, with a 37% (36% CC) increase. For this and the increase in Windows non-Pro revenue, Microsoft attributes increased PC demand. Gaming revenue increased by 22% (21% CC), including a 30% increase in Xbox content and services. Finally, search advertising revenue, excluding traffic acquisition costs, was down 10% (11% CC).
Cyberpunk 2077 hit with another delay, now releasing on December 10
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
With less than a month to go before CD Projekt RED's latest RPG Cyberpunk 2077 was set to launch, the studio has announced another delay to the game. It's not a drastic one this time, as this delay pushes the launch back by only 21 days. Instead of November 19, Cyberpunk 2077 will now launch on December 10 across all platforms.
While apologizing for this latest delay, CD Projekt RED said that preparing essentially nine versions of the game for a simultaneous launch - "Xbox One/X, compatibility on Xbox Series S|X, PS4/Pro, compatibility on PS5, PC, Stadia" - while working from home has been challenging.
"Since Cyberpunk 2077 evolved towards almost being a next-gen title somewhere along the way, we need to make sure everything works well and every version runs smoothly," said the developer, explaining the situation. "We're aware it might seem unrealistic when someone says that 21 days can make a difference in such a massive and complex game, but they really do."
The studio added that while it announced Cyberpunk 2077 had 'gone gold', with all game content being ready for shipping, it had undercalculated the time it needed to make other improvements using a day 0 update.
If the latest plans hold, Cyberpunk 2077 will be releasing on December 10, 2020. An enhanced next-gen version of the game is also in development, which will be landing sometime later for Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 with free upgrades to current-gen owners.
By Asher Madan
Xbox Deals with Gold feature Borderlands, Destiny, and more
by Asher Madan
Every week, Microsoft and select publishers discount a number of titles for weekly Deals with Gold, Spotlight, and Publisher (Shocktober, Star Wars Mandalorian, and Watch Dogs: Legion Hack) sales. This week, games from Borderlands, Dead Space, and other franchises are available for substantially less.
Below, you'll find the Xbox One and Xbox 360 games with their respective discounts. Xbox Live Gold members receive additional discounts on a number of titles through the paid subscription which is denoted with an asterisk.
Many of the Xbox 360 games appear to be backward compatible so you'll be able to play them on your Xbox One and the upcoming Xbox Series X|S. Currently, Microsoft isn't adding any more backward compatible titles to the program, but that should change in 2021.
Which titles are you interested in? Did you pick any up? Let us know in the comments below.